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Senator Rick Kolowski – District 31
March 21, 2013
Greetings from your State Capitol Building in Lincoln! January 9, 2013 was the first day of the 103rd Legislature, First Session, and I was officially sworn in as the representative of Nebraska’s 31st legislative district. It is truly an honor to serve as your state senator. While this is the 46th day of this legislative session, we have 90 working days, ending on June 5, 2013.
A great deal has happened over the first half of this 90-day session. I am one of ten members of the “Freshmen Class” of first time elected members of our Legislature. We have an excellent group that has bonded well together and they are a bright and dedicated group who are concerned about issues challenging our state and our country. They are concerned public servants and they desire to positively impact the legislative process with solutions to our many societal challenges.
Much of our early weeks of this session were dedicated to bill drafting and then on to our respective committees to hear bills that were brought forward. Each committee then, in executive session, decides the next step for each bill that is presented. Each morning the entire legislature is in session and each afternoon is dedicated to committee bill hearings until March 26. On March 27 we begin all day debate with the full legislature.
I was selected by my colleagues to serve on the Education Committee, the Natural Resources Committee and the Nebraska Retirement Systems Committee, which are the major standing committees. I was also selected as one of two senators to serve on the Midwestern Higher Education Commission, and to serve as a member of the Council of State Government’s Education Public Policy Committee. I look forward to serving on these committees.
My staff and I developed a mission statement that we strive to follow on a daily basis. Our mission statement is “Our office operates with the traditional openness and progressive attitude upon which the Nebraska Unicameral was founded. We strive to be non-partisan, efficient and accountable to the public we serve in District 31 and to the State of Nebraska”.
There were 655 bills introduced this session and of those bills, 46 bills have been approved by the Governor, seven bills have been withdrawn, and 20 bills have been indefinitely postponed. The following is a list of all the bills that I have introduced this session. To date, none of the bills have been advanced out of their committees, but I am hopeful for future movement.
School Security Fund (LB 346), which was heard in the Revenue committee, provides a funding source for local school districts to help implement school security improvements by allowing school boards, by a 2/3 vote, to add one cent above their existing maximum levy.
Teacher Allowance Fund (LB 416) sunsets the teacher education allowance after this year (2013-14) and adopts legislative intent to transform the state aid allowance into more direct incentives for teachers to advance their education and improve teaching skills. LB 416 was introduced in the Education Committee.
Uniform Election Standards and Guidelines (LB 417), heard in the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee, requires the Secretary of State to provide uniform election standards and guidelines for election poll workers.
Deputy Election Commissioner (LB 418), also heard in the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee, gives additional powers and duties to the chief deputy election commissioner in each county, allowing the position to act as a check on the powers and duties of the election commissioner.
Revenue Bonds (LB 546), which was heard in the Education Committee, removes the Coordinating Commission and Legislature from review and approval of University and State College revenue bonds projects, allowing bond projects to proceed following Board of Regent approval.
Activity Tax Credit (LB 547) was heard in the Revenue Committee. It provides a tax credit for parents/guardians who make cash contributions or pay fees to a school district or a community organization partnered with a school district for support of school linked extracurricular activities.
Smoke Free Daycares (LB 630), heard in the Health and Human Services Committee, requires home daycares and their vehicles to be smoke free during and after hours of business in accordance with standards for commercial daycare centers.
Each senator may select one priority bill, and I have selected LB 276 as my priority bill. This bill was originally introduced by Senator Jeremy Nordquist of Omaha. LB 276 allows schools to seek Medicaid reimbursement for a broader array of services delivered to Medicaid-eligible special education students. A priority bill is one that has priority status and generally is considered ahead of other bills in debate. If the bill is advanced out of committee it is guaranteed debate time on the floor before the end of this session.
On February 19, we held a town hall meeting at the Millard Foundation Building, and had a good turnout of people. The meeting not only provided constituents the opportunity to meet my staff, but it also allowed us the chance to give an overview of the activities that have taken place since the Legislature started on January 9. We reviewed the bills that I have introduced, reviewed the history of the Unicameral, and how a bill becomes a law. We felt that those attending came away with a better understanding of what we’re trying to accomplish and we came away with a better understanding of what the people in Millard and Elkhorn expect from us.
Our office received the 2013 Unclaimed Property Report from the Nebraska State Treasurer’s office. This is a notice to owners of abandoned property. The State Treasurer’s Office is holding more than $125 million in unclaimed property for more than 350,000 residents. This report has been mailed out to newspapers across the state, and the county seats throughout the state should have a copy as well. If you think you have some unclaimed property or know of someone who may have unclaimed property, contact the State Treasurer’s Office at 877-572-9688, 402-471-8497 or check out their web site at www.treasurer.org.
I plan to have a bi-monthly newsletter which I hope will keep you informed on the Legislature’s activities. I encourage you to share your thoughts, concerns or questions on legislative issues and state government. You may contact me by mail at District 31, State Capitol, Lincoln, NE 68509-4604, Telephone (402) 471-2327, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also go to the web site at www.nebraskalegislature.gov. Please feel free to stop by my office on the first floor of the Capitol, in Room 1528.
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